Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ministerial Extensions.

Good afternoon God,
It's that time in ministry again when I am trying to discern my calling - where do you want me to minister, what am I called to do next.. what is best for the circuit, what is best for me? (And by best I mean what is right by you!)
It's not easy - and I am grateful that I do not have to do it alone.
I have already met with the District chair and soon I will meet with the circuit stewards and they, in turn will discuss with the people I have been ministering too, all so that together we can discern your will.
It's a good system, at its best  it can be supportive and affirming, albeit challenging and humbling. It's part of what it means to me to be an itinerant Presbyter in your service. The same process is used throughout the Methodist Church, whether the presbyter is a circuit minister, superintendent or district chair. It is a consultative process that provides feedback from which the minister can learn and grow in grace and holiness. The fact that it is a shared process throughout the ministry is important to maintaining trust and confidence in the system.

So I am somewhat saddened to learn from our Conference reports that the same process appears to have been  short-circuited in the case of our General Secretary. The most important stage of all - the consultation with those being ministered to, has been compromised. The conversation with the equivalent of the Circuit Stewards has happened, and Conference will play the equivalent role of the Circuit meeting in either accepting or rejecting the recommendation being brought to them - but the recommendation does not appear to come on the basis of feedback from a full representative range of those that the General Secretary is called to minister to. If the report is to be believed, the ordinary members of the Connexion (and by Connexion I mean Connexion not Connexional Team) were not consulted.

The report tells us that

First, soundings were taken from those who work most closely with Martyn
in the Connexional Team and from Chairs of Districts. A process was
then put in place whereby comments could be obtained from other Church
leaders in the United Kingdom, from the leaders of a number of partner
Methodist Churches and from other organisations and individuals with
which the Methodist Church works in close co-operation.

If the General Secretary is to do his job well, shouldn't some of the 'rank and file' of the Methodist Church have also been consulted? The long list of the great and good who were consulted makes me uneasy - is there really now such a division between our 'leadership' and our people?

If the only people to be consulted in the process of stationing a circuit minister were the district chairs and circuit stewards and their ecumenical equivalents - would the Church members be happy?

What a missed opportunity for the General Secretary (and Conference) to receive some feedback about his ministry from the people who will be most affected by the changes he suggests we adopt. I am aware that often members of the Connexional team receive negative emails, hate letters etc - but here was a chance for the Church to offer affirmation, and positive comments.

The General Secretary is much loved in the Connexion - surely he had the right to hear that?
His ministry has been appreciated by many - surely he had the right to learn why and discover what people have valued the most?

I have no doubt that those who were considering how best to do this whole process had the Church's best interests at heart - but on this occasion, I think they got it seriously wrong. It leaves me with the uneasy impression that the opinions of  'ordinary' rank and file Methodists don't count. Something I don't for one second believe to be the case.

I can only hope that it is the report, not the process that was flawed, and that a full range of Methodist members including those without 'rank' or office.. were indeed seriously consulted. It's only the General Secretary's right as a Presbyter in the Methodist Church seeking an extension to his appointment after all.

For what its worth - The General Secretary would have received my vote.

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